A COVID-19 emergency hospital made of shipping containers? That’s possible, thanks to this Filipino team

April 24, 2020 - 9:28 PM
This image shows the design of the exterior of a Rapid Deployment Hospital or the makeshift COVID-19 emergency hospital (Photo courtesy of Rapid Deployment Hospitals)

Who would have thought that shipping containers can be converted into COVID-19 hospitals?

As several hospitals in the Philippines are struggling in accommodating COVID-19 patients, a Filipino team composed of young professionals, called Rapid Deployment (RaD) Hospitals, mobilized their team to lead the development of RaD or COVID-19 emergency hospitals.

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RaD project head Mac Evangelista explained that a RaD hospital prototype “uses decommissioned shipping containers and repurposes them into ICU (intensive care unit)/Isolation Units for severe and critical Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and CoViD-19-positive patients.”

Evangelista told Interaksyon that they began this initiative a few days into the quarantine.

The project lead has previously developed the use of decommissioned shipping containers as the primary building material in residential and commercial construction.

She thought that this initiative may be good solution in addressing the need for facilities amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

“From a team of 6 volunteers, the RaD crew grew to 35 volunteers composed of healthcare architects, engineers, marketing professionals, graphic designers, and startup founders,” she said in an online interview, adding that these professionals waived their fee for the project.

RaD team said these makeshift hospitals are to be deployed in the grounds of hospitals under Tier 2 or field hospitals and Tier 3 or COVID-19 referral hospitals.

Its original plan was to provide additional isolation or ICU rooms to the five COVID-19 referral centers designated by the Department of Health.

The pilot RaD cluster will be built at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, with the first cluster targeted to be turned over by month’s end.

“We initially offered RaD to the Lung Center of the Philippines, being the biggest among the 5. Also, the hospital grounds is big enough to accommodate an on-site build for RaD,” Evangelista said, adding that the site can accommodate four clusters or equivalent to a total of 24 patient isolation or ICU rooms.

Last April 20, the RaD already received its certification from the Lung Center of the Philippines.

How does a RaD hospital look like?

According to Evangelista, one RaD cluster consists of six 20-footer shipping containers, configured into rows of three facing a center corridor. Its total floor area is at 151.00 square meters.

“This center corridor serves as the access to the 6 patient rooms and is also where the Nurse Station is located. Lavatories are provided along the center corridor for handwashing protocols,” the project head shared.

Hallway of a RaD cluster (Photo courtesy of Rapid Deployment Hospitals)

Each shipping container also serves as a hospital patient room.

“Designed as an Isolation Room, at the entrance of each patient room is an Ante Room, which provides space for medical staff to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before entering the patient room, as well as space for storage of clean and soiled materials,” Evangelista said.

Isolation room (Photo courtesy of Rapid Deployment Hospitals)

“Past the Ante Room is the patient room, which is provided with negative air pressure to ensure containment of the virus within the room, and through the use of High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, pulls air into the patient room from the central corridor and Ante Room, filters the air, and ‘throws’ it outside the facility,” she described.

“At the farthest end of the patient room and accessible by the patient, is a Toilet and Bath (T&B). It is designed with grab rails to aid the patient in toileting activities,” she also said.

The patient room, RaD team said, is not only an isolation room but it is also designed as an ICU room that can be equipped with monitoring machines for the management of life-threatening conditions.

“It has also been designed to accommodate nurse-call systems for immediate medical response and piped-in music for the patients’ and staff’s comfort,” Evangelista added.

How long does it take to construct a makeshift hospital?

The project head said a RaD cluster can be built within 10 to 15 days, either via onsite or offsite construction as it does not need any ground excavation.

She said the cluster is outfitted to also provide water, power, air-conditioning and exhaust systems, “ready for tapping to source of supply.”


Asked if the team follows the standards set by the government and the DOH, the project lead said she has worked with healthcare architects and engineers for this project. The technical team is also “closely guided” by consultants from the state health agency.

They also ensured that the cluster’s allocation of spaces, architectural layout, engineering systems, finishing materials are in compliance with the healthcare facility standards and guidelines.

On top of that, the workers are likewise strictly asked to follow health guidelines during the construction to prevent potential transmission of COVID-19 as they work on the RaD hospital facilities.

They are being screened and cleared of fever, coughs and colds.

“They will be picked-up and will stay within the site premises until the build is finished. In addition to the implementation of these protocols, workers will be provided health, accident, and death insurance for the duration of the build. Wearing of proper construction PPEs as well as face masks will also be strictly implemented,” Evangelista said.

“As much as we would like to provide assistance to the healthcare facilities, we would also like to ensure that RaD will not add to their burden,” they added.

They workers’ insurance are provided in partnership with Universal Storefront Services Corp. and Maxicare Healthcare Corp.

Not just for COVID-19

The RaD team also highlights that the facilities can also be used in another crisis as the facility can be disassembled and deployed to other areas.

Evangelista said these can be also transformed into barangay health stations, clinics or satellite laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A look at reusable RaD hospital (Photo courtesy of Rapid Deployment Hospitals)

“The adaptive reuse of these idle shipping containers contribute to the objective of rapidly increasing the capacity of an existing healthcare facility to provide properly-designed patient treatment areas,” she said.

“In the event of another crisis, be it health related or brought about by a calamity or natural disaster, the RaD facility can act as an emergency field hospital catering to victims,” she also said.

The RaD team last month launched donation drive for the project and have since tapped donors for materials from the construction industry and other private donors but they are still accepting donations through its Facebook page.


Currently, other hospitals are also reaching out to RaD and are asking if they can also build facilities for them.